23 December 2014

Vegan Christmas Wreath Cookies

Every family has holiday traditions. In my family, we have a LOT of holiday traditions. We have traditions for where we go when, who we see when, how to open presents, what we eat when, and of course, what cookies we make.

Mom making wreaths in 2012
One of our traditional holiday cookies we call "wreath cookies." They are the most simple cookies (essentially like rice-crispie treats), but my mom made them every year. When we would get together with various groups of people over the holidays, we would ALWAYS be told to bring wreath cookies. Although other people made them, most people said that my mom's were the best. I don't know why they were the best, but they always were. Maybe it was the deep green color (there's a lot of research telling us that color matters in food perceptions!), maybe it was simply that her making them was tradition, or maybe it was that she clearly loved that other people loved them. Although this is our first Christmas without her, she was too weak to make them last year, so my sister took up the mantle. For the past 5 years or so, I've also been making a batch of vegan wreath cookies, just so that I could have my own taste of tradition.

These cookies take only about 15 minutes to make, but then take a while to set. In addition, given the food coloring, expect green everywhere (your fingers as you make them, your tongue when you eat them, and anywhere else the food goes*). But, these are a quick and festive cookie, so I think the green is worth it.

11 December 2014

Devil Fingers

If you ask many non-vegans, vegans eat "weird" foods. While a number of previously "weird vegan foods" have gone mainstream (kale, anyone?), there are still a number of "weird vegan foods" that aren't really anywhere close to hitting the mainstream food consciousness in a major way. One of those foods is seitan. It's clear that I like the "weirdness" that is seitan. What is also fun about seitan is that the word is commonly mispronounced. The real pronunciation is say-TAHN, However, a lot of people mistakenly say "satan."

For anyone NOT sensitive to gluten, seitan is an awesome food! It's a high-protein option that can replace meat in a number of dishes. Depending on how it's made, it can be stringy (like chicken) or more dense (like beef). If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll have seen my post for how I make my own seitan. That seitan version is toward the "beefy" side of the seitan spectrum. Given that that recipe is "beefy," it only works in some recipes. Thus, years ago, I started making a chicken-style seitan recipe by VeganDad. With this recipe, I slightly adapted another of his recipes (see below) and created what we refer to as Devil Fingers. See, if seitan is mispronounced, and these are kind of like breaded chicken fingers, what better name than Devil Fingers? Plus, the looks on people's faces when they ask what we're eating is awesome. Given that they're also delicious, this recipe is just plain fabulous.

Served with ketchup for dipping and roasted cauliflower on this night. 

23 November 2014

Vegan Scallion Pancakes

Shana and I have totally different comfort foods. It's no secret that Shana loves Chinese food. A couple of weeks ago I was feeling up to the challenge of Shana's ultimate comfort food: vegan wonton soup. Although that particular attempt was close, it wasn't good enough (the wontons are awesome, it's the broth that I'm struggling with). What WAS good enough was my attempt at scallion pancakes to accompany our soup.

In my memory, scallion pancakes are served at every restaurant approaching Chinese cuisine. In reality, I have no idea how Americanized scallion pancakes are (so much of our "Chinese" food is not eaten in China the way we eat it here) and they are certainly not served everywhere. We tend to order them when we find them on a menu, because oniony fried bread is always a good option. Unfortunately, none of the Asian restaurants in our area (we have a couple of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants) serve scallion pancakes. And clearly, since making one new dish isn't enough for a meal, I simply had to take on two.

But wow, am I glad I did! These scallion pancakes were the real deal and they were surprisingly easy, if a bit more hands-on than I anticipated. Regardless, these will certainly go into rotation as an occasional side for Asian-inspired foods.

02 November 2014

Super Simple Breakfast Cookies

Somehow or another I went a whole month without posting - how embarrassing. October is always a busy month for us (we were gone two consecutive weekends in the middle of the month) and this is when the semester really starts to explode. Still, those aren't appropriate reasons to have neglected my blog for a whole month.

With that said, I'm back and cooking all sorts of new things this week. Hopefully some of them will be blog-worthy! I've got something blog-worthy today, though: breakfast cookies! I saw these on a blog I follow and decided I had to make them. They are SO simple and really delicious! Plus, they're full of healthy ingredients (oats, flax seed, bananas), soy and gluten free, take next to no time, and are low in sugar. What's not to love?

30 September 2014

Lazy Dinner Bean Burritos

I'm procrastinating; I should be grading. However, I'm all set for my classes tomorrow and grading just doesn't sound fun (sorry, students, but it's not). I'll grade after I finish this post, I promise.

Since it's Tuesday night, I'm on my own for dinner, which means a Lazy Dinner. In the past couple of weeks, I've been really bad at cooking/eating at home the nights that Shana's gone. More recently, I've been grabbing food at the few places I can eat here in town. That's just silly. With the same effort it takes to drive across town, wait in line, and bring food home, I can stand in my kitchen in comfy clothes and eat delicious dinner for easily 1/3 of the price of me eating out.

Tonight my plan was Lazy Dinner Bean Burritos. This dinner is SO easy and so cheap. You can add whatever you'd like and make this dinner your own. If you need to scale up to make a quick dinner for 6, you can do it. Moreover, there's no need to actually buy things for this dinner, as you can make it with things you'd keep on hand. I did buy one thing for tonight, but that's just because I planned ahead. Had I planned better, I would have added a couple more ingredients. Oh well, that'll be for next time.

12 September 2014

Maggie's Vegan Chicken and Noodles

Last Sunday I woke up really early (just before 6) and couldn't get back to sleep. After tossing and turning for a while, I decided to get up and be productive. For the record, productive on Sunday morning means reading the paper while sipping a single cup of French pressed coffee. After I finished the paper, it still wasn't late enough to wake up Shana, so I decided to do some work. For some low-level background noise, I turned on the TV. I'm not sure how much Sunday morning TV you watch, but there is not a lot on that interests me. I decided on the Food Network.

At this point, I'm not even sure what show I was watching, but I assure you that it was not a vegan-friendly cooking show. Somehow or another, I came away with two new recipes I wanted to veganize. When I mentioned the idea of a vegan "chicken" and noodles dinner to Shana, she seemed cautiously interested. We put it on the meal plan for this week. As the week progressed, Shana got more and more excited and kept saying that she wanted something like the "just boil water" pasta sides of her college days (read: weekend late nights).

Veganized chicken and noodles was on the menu for tonight. I'd come home late after an outing with some colleagues and hadn't had enough time to look up a variety of recipes to get some ideas, which is my general plan when I'm making something new. Instead, I came home, grabbed ingredients, and got to work. The resulting dish ended up being a delicious (and less chemically-laden) version of a comfort food. Shana was in heaven.

05 September 2014

Hot and Creamy Vegan Artichoke Dip

I am in charge of a loosely-organized mostly-social group on my campus that consists of new(ish) faculty. We had a ton of new people arrive this year, so I've planned some events where people can get to know one another. As it turned out, many of the new folks to arrive on campus have small children, so I decided that a late afternoon weekend potluck might be just the thing for those new folk for whom an after-work happy hour would be a scheduling nightmare. (For the record, it was a great success and there were many small people happily running around.)

While talking with Shana about what we should bring to the potluck, she mentioned an old recipe of mine that I hadn't pulled out in a while - a hot artichoke dip. I used to make this all the time while in grad school; it was my go to recipe for bringing to football game viewing parties, someone-did-something-so-let's-celebrate parties, or really any time a group of people gathered together. It was quite popular and always devoured. In fact, I would bring it to a party, set it down, and people would descend upon it, barely talking until it was gone. When we moved to western NY, I ended up making it for a party, but it didn't go as fast. I started making other things, and we just kind of forgot about this recipe. Upon bringing it to this potluck, it was devoured!

Now, this is NOT a good for you recipe. It's high in fat, although because it is vegan, the corresponding non-vegan version would be very high in fat and cholesterol. Anyway, I just thought I would give you fair warning that this is definitely a once in a while type of treat. But wow, what a delicious treat.

23 August 2014

Roasted Garlic Oil Pasta

Once again I'm sorry for the long delay between posts, dear readers. This delay was due to two primary forces. First, my computer was moving so slowly that I honestly couldn't have more than one program open at a time or type quickly because it was generally about a sentence behind me. Ugh. Second, at the end of July I left to go to Spain with some faculty colleagues. Together, the 9 of us walked part of the Camino de Santiago, publicized recently by the movie The Way. We were gone for 12 days, and when we got back, it was directly into retreats and workshops and meetings for the start of the semester.

Now, I'm mostly ready for the semester to start and we have a couple of days without full-day meetings planned. Thus, it's a perfect time to update you on some of the light and easy things we've been eating throughout this past summer. First up is a ridiculously easy dinner that requires just a tiny bit of planning: roasted garlic oil pasta.

I'd been wanting a pasta dish with something on it, but didn't want something creamy and just wasn't feeling like making my red sauce. As I was looking around my kitchen, I realized we had a ton of garlic, and that's when this dish came together. It was a perfect dinner for a summer night because it didn't heat up my kitchen and didn't sit heavily in my stomach. Plus, I'm sure you could put in any number of fresh summer veggies and it would be delicious!

26 July 2014

Vegan Blueberry Tart

Earlier this week I asked Shana to go to the store to pick up an ingredient we'd forgotten for that night's dinner. While she was there, I called and asked if she would bring home some blueberries (I planned to make some overnight oats). Shortly thereafter, Shana walks into the kitchen carrying a giant 5 pound box of blueberries! Since 5 pounds was just a bit more than I'd been anticipating. I had to figure out how to use all of those blueberries.

As I thought, I kept popping blueberries into my mouth. As ideas began to form, I looked down, certain I'd eaten at least a pound of them already. HA - not even close. Here's what I've done so far. We gave some to our neighbors. We ate some. I made a blueberry buckle. Then I decided I wanted to make a tart. I've never made a tart before, so I was nervous. However, I invited some friends over and the seven of us polished it off. It was delicious!

This recipe wasn't particularly hard, but it has multiple steps and is a production. You need to plan ahead, as many of the steps take multiple hours (or overnight). But don't let the steps and planning deter you! The result was awesome. My friends literally licked their plates clean!

18 July 2014

Pasta Della California

I am sorry for my absence, dear blog readers. After my May Term ended, I had about a week to finalize grades (and sleep!) before Shana and I embarked on our summer travels. Since we both teach, we've got 5-6 weeks in the summer when we are both free of scheduled commitments and head off to visit family and friends in various parts of the country. It's a lot of driving, but the laughter and hugs and good memories more than make up for the long drives.

Because we've been traveling, we've been relying on staple recipes (e.g., grilled foil packets, risotto, etc.), convenience items like store-bought vegan burgers/hot-dogs, or restaurants. We're now back from our travels. Shana's school starts up in about two weeks. I've got about a month, but in about two weeks I'm heading off on a trip with some other faculty members. While I'm home, however, I plan to cook up a storm! I've got a couple of few other posts in the works, but I'd really like to focus on some great warm-weather recipes. The recipe below is a great warm-weather recipe. It's not too heavy and it includes a great blend of textures and flavors.

04 June 2014

Vegan Viands #17: Caramel Puffcorn

This morning was the last day for my May Term; it's bittersweet for me. During class today, my students gave presentations about the memoirs they chose to read. In related news, I've got my summer reading all planned out! Anyway, since I wasn't preparing for class, I told them I would bring them snacks. I tried to make things that were good but not overly decadent (e.g., Ambrosia Grapes, Grape Nut Bars, and cut up pineapple), but I couldn't resist something a little decadent. This puffcorn is decadent. It's not even a little bit healthy and it's addictive like whoa. However, it's delicious and a fun, occasional treat.

Wait, you don't know what puffcorn is?! Remember back when you would eat those kind of crunchy cheeseballs as a kid? Or, maybe you didn't like cheetos, but you like cheese puffs? Essentially, puffcorn is like that stuff - fluffy corn something - but without the cheese. It's billed as popcorn without hulls, but it's not even close to that. Whatever it is, it's awesome.

The big problem with this recipe is that it can be hard to find puffcorn in a grocery store. When we were out eat (PA and NY), there was no puffcorn to be found. We would bring some back with us from the Midwest. For those of you in the Midwest, look for the following brands: Old Dutch (used when I'm in Minnesota) or Mike-Sell's (used when I'm in Indiana). In both cases, grab the "original" flavor. After you've secured the puffcorn, the rest of this recipe is super easy and uses easily found ingredients. Pretty soon, you won't be able to tear yourself away from the bowl of puffy, caramely, decadent goodness. Here's closeup.

28 May 2014

Lazy Dinner "Turkey" Club

I'm teaching a May Term class for the first time right now (May Terms are a single class taught over 16 days). Since I've never taught a class like this, I had no idea how much work it would be. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving the class and my students (they are such a great bunch!), I'm just more busy and tired than I anticipated I would be after the semester ended. In addition, my busyness is overlapping with an increase in temperatures, which always makes me not want to eat any of the things we've been eating over the winter. Hot weather foods are hard.

Tonight, we opted to deviate from our meal plan, as neither one of us was interested in cooking or eating our planned dinner. Instead, we had Shana's all time favorite food from her college dining hall: "turkey" clubs. We actually started eating these sandwiches a while ago when Shana suddenly realized that we had all the vegan ingredients to make this sandwich. Most likely, it was Shana's discovery that vegan mayonnaise is delicious. In fact, I was admonished to tell you all that Shana has "very strong feelings" about vegan mayo. Actually, most people who try it think it's as good (or better) than non-vegan mayo. I don't feel as strongly as she does, but then again, I never really ate mayo in my pre-vegan days.

This is the ultimate in Lazy Dinners because the only cooking you need to do is the "bacon" and toasting the bread. Other than that, you just slap stuff together. Anyway, since I said I was busy, enough blabbering, here's the food!

08 May 2014

Maggie's Vegan Pad Thai

It's finals week. I'm trying to wrap up what has been, almost certainly, the most difficult semester of my life (just in time to start a new course for May Term, a summer of personal and professional travel, and a whole bunch of work to prepare for this next year). In the mean time, I'm procrastinating by working on a new recipe: vegan Pad Thai.

I'm not sure how Shana started eating Pad Thai. I do know that when I met Shana, she ate taquitos and beer; she's come a long way. Surely somewhere in our past I convinced her that Thai food was a relative of her beloved Chinese food and wore her down enough to try a Thai restaurant. Now that she recognizes the awesomeness that is Thai food, it was only natural that I try to figure out how to make my own version of her favorite dish at home. The problem with a lot of Pad Thai recipes is that the sauce includes fish, making it unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans alike.  

The beauty of Pad Thai is that there are about a many versions of it as there are people who cook it, so I was certain I could come up with something just as delicious but without any fish! Success!

Unfortunately, in order to succeed, I've used some "specialty" ingredients that may be hard to get at your local grocery store, such as tamarind. But if you're serious about making your own Pad Thai, tamarind is a cornerstone in the flavor profile you'll want. Thus, it might be worth searching for some (see Helpful Hints). 

04 May 2014

Lazy Dinner Fancy Ramen

I am just finishing up what has been one of the most overwhelming semesters I've ever had. Answering a friend the other day who inquired about how I was feeling, I responded with "ultrawhelmed." (And to be honest, I'm not really done, but next week is finals week and prepping for other things, so I have new/different tasks in which to engage.) This semester is the main reason for my major absence from this blog. To be honest, we've not even been sticking to out meal plan as much as we would normally, as there have been a number of nights where I've just been too busy or tired or both to cook (and Shana gets home too late usually).

In addition to this semester, Shana and I drove home from Chicago today after a 40-hour visit (I was there for a conference) and we had to clean up our house because tomorrow night is the semi-annual Minion Dinner. We've got 7 students coming over tomorrow night for a dinner of soups, salads, and breads (and cookies!!). So, when we got home, we had to clean and go grocery shopping to prepare for tomorrow, which didn't leave a lot of time for dinner. 

Because of all of that, tonight's dinner was another perfect lazy dinner: fancy ramen. The only reason we call this "fancy" ramen is because we put something other than just the ramen noodles in the pot. Because it's ramen, this dinner is SUPER fast and easy, plus it's pretty cheap even with the added ingredients. As I've talked about before (see the Helpful Hints), there is only one easily obtainable brand and flavor of ramen that has a vegan flavor packet.

10 April 2014

Crockpot Drunken Beans

This recipe was the first of three new dinners I had planned after I got bored with everything we have been eating. We started out with a winner! There are two reasons that I'm glad this meal was successful. First, YAY a new recipe! Second, given that three new meals planned for one week is a stretch for Shana, since the first one went well, that make her more open to other new meals. In retrospect, I think I get bored with our food options every spring after a winter of heavy flavors and warming meals. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I felt like that because it made me look beyond our normal fare.

This bean dish was simply amazing. I made some slight modifications to a recipe by one of the pillars of vegan food and cooking, Bryanna Clark Grogan. And although it does take a bit more effort than your standard crockpot meal, it's all worth it in the end! The pinto beans are so creamy and the subtle heat and smokiness of the broth/sauce is a perfect complement. What's more, the leftovers the next day are even better! The flavors matured overnight (even more than after a day full of cooking) and a small dish of beans was great as part of my lunch.

06 April 2014

Vegan Viands #16: Garlicky Garbanzo Gobblers

This week while meal planning, I decided that I was bored with everything we've been eating. Subsequently, 50% of the meals we're eating this week will be new. I also made a new dinner last night, though it's not quite blog-worthy. I'm hoping that at least one of the three new meals will show up here, as I've been a blogging slacker. (Seriously, this semester has been rough.)

Unfortunately, our first new meal isn't until Wednesday (then Thursday and Saturday, too), which didn't really help my food boredom. So, I went digging through the stacks of recipes I have sitting around just waiting to be tried and found a simple snack food that I could serve as an appetizer while a friend came over to watch some basketball with us.

These crispy chickpeas* are easy and delicious, and can be seasoned any way you'd like (a simple google search will lead you to a crazy number of flavoring ideas). Plus, using canned chickpeas makes the prep time practically non-existent.

19 March 2014

Maggie's Caesar-esque Salad with Garlic Croutons

Tonight we had a friend and her super cute 8 month old over for dinner while her husband was out of town. When making our meal plan for the week, we'd planned on lasagna for tonight. Often, when we make our meal plan and need to supplement a main dish with a veggie or two, we simply write "veggie" on the meal plan and the grocery list. Then, while at the store, we see which veggies are in season, look delicious, and/or tempt our taste buds. This past Sunday, while shopping, I saw some beautiful organic romaine lettuce and something clicked in my brain. I was going to make a vegan Caesar salad!

There are actually quite a few recipes for vegan Caesar salad out there. I combed through my cookbooks at home and found one in three of the first four books I checked! However, none of them were quite what I had in mind, all for some reason or another. For example, one included capers. I've tried to cook with capers before, but it was a disaster (which makes sense as neither of us like briney foods). Another didn't have anything in it that seemed like it would be creamy enough for what I wanted. Thus, I improvised and made something delicious!

Now, to be honest, I'm not sure I ever ate Caesar salad in my pre-vegan days. I know that my dad has a recipe that other people love, but since I've not eaten his Caesar recipe - nor anyone else's, for that matter - I can't even begin to guess if this approximates the taste of a non-vegan Caesar dressing. In thinking about a clever name, I tried to ask my colleague who teaches in Ancient & Classical Studies if Caesar had an assistant or anything, but he was very upset* that I would be referencing the wrong Caesar. But whatever I call this, we all (including the 8 month old) enjoyed our salads! The dressing is a cinch to prepare and the homemade croutons are just as easy but 10 times as good as store-bought.

12 March 2014

Vegan Crockpot Tortilla Soup

This semester is insane. Aside from my mom dying, I've been feeling all semester that I may have finally bitten off more than I can chew (food joke partially intentional). I'm finally feeling slightly less like that today, which could be due to the fact that spring break is next week, or that I got a massage last week, or maybe I've just finally habituated to being as far behind as I am currently. Who knows. Regardless, the feeling of partial relief and a recipe success means I'm finally posting something new here! I'm also hoping to cook a few more things during spring break.

Remember the friends who cooked for us before we went to Minnesota? They rock. Mike, the one who went to culinary school, also stocked our freezer with two meals while we were gone (two other friends did the same). One of the dishes he put in our freezer was a tortilla soup to cook in the crockpot. I cooked it last week while Shana was gone and thought it was delicious. However, I knew she wouldn't eat it because it had too many "chunks" (read: pieces of tomato). Despite the chunks, I thought she would really like soup, so I decided to make it again this week with a few tweaks to make it Shana-friendly. It worked - a super delicious Shana-friendly new meal! It's SO easy and relies on convenience ingredients, which makes it a snap to put together in the morning. Plus, dinner's ready when you get home and you can throw any leftovers in the freezer (we didn't have any to freeze, though). This soup is a winner any way you look at it!

13 February 2014

Vegan Fruit Cobbler/Buckle

When we were headed to Minnesota to say goodbye to my mother, some dear friends offered to make us dinner before we drove so that we didn't have to worry about cooking and cleaning. Luckily, these friends are well-versed in Shana's food idiosyncrasies; they are one of the few places she will go without knowing what's being served in advance. Plus, one of them went to culinary school, so he is an amazing cook!

For dessert, we ate something our friends called a cobbler. Actually, we ate two. There was a non-vegan black raspberry cobbler (perhaps Shana's favorite fruit ever) and a vegan black cherry cobbler. I can't vouch for the non-vegan version (though Shana gobbled it up), but the vegan version was freaking amazing. He gave me the recipe, so I had to make it at home.

When I get a new recipe, I generally do a bit of "creative googling" to see what else is out there in the vegan and non-vegan interwebs. In my investigation before writing up this post, I learned that there's a lot of variation in dishes labeled "cobbler." The wiki (I know, I know) article about cobblers lists a whole variety of dishes with somewhat similar ingredients but often wildly different preparations. The recipe below could be a cobbler (given the variability inherent in what that means), but it could also be a buckle. Whatever you call it, it's delicious!

Fresh from the oven.

Ready for my face!

06 February 2014

Vegan Roasted Vegetable Shepherd's Pie

I've been absent from here for over a month. As I indicated, we visited my family over the holidays and shared in wonderful traditions. When we came back, the semester started up for me, which is always a busy time. Then my mother died. We were there with her when she died, peacefully and painlessly, for which I will be forever grateful.

Needless to say, the rest of my life was put on hold. Our wonderful colleagues covered for our duties at both our schools. Family and friends near and far made/sent meals to keep us going. Meanwhile, we planned a beautiful burial and memorial. Her burial was attended by 19 of her family members and her memorial was attended by 400+ of her family and friends, and streamed online by more than 50 others.

We've been back from Minnesota now for not quite a week; I am playing catch-up as best I can and we are living life as normally as possible. Most of the time it's very possible; some times it's not. One of my normal life events is cooking, so we've cooked every night since we've been back. I've even cooked a couple new things, including this roasted vegetable shepherd's pie.

This is comfort food to the core. It uses the oven, is soft and creamy, and has a subtle blend of savory flavors. It also uses a fun new product (though see Helpful Hints) called Soy Curls. Soy Curls are nothing more than whole soybeans, so they are a great protein source. Speaking of products, there are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but nothing is particularly difficult. Finally, as a "casserole" dish, shepherd's pie is not the prettiest of all the foods I make, but the taste more than makes up for the appearance.

05 January 2014

Maggie's Tofu Scramble

We're back from our lovely holiday travels and enjoying that last weekend of break before everything starts up again. When talking about having a fun weekend breakfast, I mentioned tofu scramble to Shana, who was enthusiastic. Having a tofu scramble for breakfast is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it's a departure from our regular fun weekend breakfasts of waffles or pancakes (though we couldn't resist). Second, I'm not sure that anyone who has known Shana would have ever expected her to think a tofu scramble sounds like a delicious food, no matter when it's served. On the other hand, I order them almost everywhere I can find them served.

I've made tofu scrambles a few times at home, but I'd never quite gotten the spices and moisture content quite right. I'd make one that was too wet (per Shana's standards), too bland, too spicy, or just not quite right. This morning, after looking over my notes from my most recent attempt, cross-referencing with a recipe from one of the figureheads of vegan cooking (Isa Chandra Moskowitz over at the PPK), and doing a little mental recalculation, I arrived at a winner of a tofu scramble! We devoured all of it, along with some mini pancakes and a couple of slices of vegan bacon.